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My Trip to West U
I prefer West U in small doses. I get to say that because I used to live there, in a charming frame bungalow that got torn down and replaced by a monster house that bulges out to the lot line. That's the kind of thing to which I say humbug -- that, and the unremitting hordes of blond, rosy-cheeked, cosmetic young families with their pricey baby strollers and annoyingly perfect landscaping.

So it was with a certain trepidation that I ventured forth to the Buffalo Grille, West U's cult breakfast spot, on a recent Saturday morning. It was as if I'd never left: the place was as jam-packed as it had been on my last visit, four or five or maybe more years ago. But to my great relief, the crowd looked less like a Ralph Lauren ad than a Weight Watchers convention on a binge: lots of big, big folks eating big, big breakfasts. I felt positively sylphlike in comparison. Maybe West U wasn't so annoying after all.

The rest was much as I remembered it. Tall glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Oversized cups of cinnamon-scented coffee. Vintage wooden tables and chairs in a capacious room as raucous as a college dining hall. An outdoor patio hemmed in by a faux-adobe fireplace. And a slate of Mexicanesque breakfasts that still reads better than it eats -- on account of unduly sissified red and green sauces.

What I had forgotten was how alluring the banana-pecan pancakes are. Fat, dinner-plate-sized affairs, chockablock with molten banana and crunchy pecans, they are worlds away from the thin, effete little pancakes I'd make if left to my own devices. These are pancakes that could satisfy Paul Bunyan -- and his blue ox, Babe, not to mention the big people in this big, noisy room. How much did I like them? Enough to brave West U in the morning.

--Alison Cook


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